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UW-L students deal with flooding, outdated equipment, while waiting for new science building

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FILE - Interim UW System President Tommy Thompson (left) speaks with UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow in La Crosse on March 1, 2022. Thompson visited UW-L to kick off his final two weeks as System President.

Flooded hallways, outdated classrooms and a building that’s falling apart.

Former Wisconsin governor and interim UW System President Tommy Thompson wants to see something done about the dilemma College of Science and Health students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are forced to deal with at the schools outdated building.

UW-L has been working on a two-phase project to build a pair of state-of-the-art science buildings but has been unable to get funding to finish the second phase.

The first phase of this project was completed in summer of 2018. That involved building the first Prairie Springs Center, which consists of mostly science labs and classrooms. It had a budget of $82 million.

The new project sets out to demolish Cowley Hall and create a new facility that includes modern classrooms, more labs, office spaces for faculty and specialized spaces for research projects, as well as other learning opportunities.

The second building has a proposed budget of $110 million. 

During a recent visit to UW-L,  Thompson spoke on the importance of finishing the Prairie Springs science building. 

Thompson explained that with interest rates being so low, there needs to be some urgency to getting the science building completed.

“You take a look at the buildings we have and some of them are beautiful, but some are crap. Now is the time to invest in our university system.” Thompson explained. “When you have an old building that when it rains you need to pull up your pant legs in order to get through because it floods so much, it’s not a proper place for students and faculty and it sends a bad image.” 

The building is an important step in modernizing the facilities for science and health majors. Out of the 10,500 students that attend UW-L, 50% are majors in the College of Science and Health, and use the science buildings daily. 

“I believe in building the economy of La Crosse and the best way to do that is to build up our university systems.” Thompson said. “Let’s make sure that students want to come to our schools, and want to go into the fields that are in the science building and turn out to be great graduates that benefit the community.”

Cowley Hall, which is the current science building, is almost 60 years old. Aside from its age, and lacking modern science equipment, it has major structural issues, including regular flooding.

“The students go into a dilapidated building,” Thompson said. “The first half (of Prairie Springs) is beautiful, it’s brand new. And then to attach that to a building that is leaking when it rains, it just doesn’t give students the feeling of ‘I really want to go to go to school there.’”

Thompson expressed the importance of contacting local legislators and media outlets to bring attention to this project. 

“We need to tell our story,” he said. “The next time it rains and it floods down there, get a bunch of pictures. Send those to the legislature with letters, and send letters to the newspapers, and to the tv, and to anyone else. Tell the story of how important this is.”

Sam is a student at UW-La Crosse studying media communication and political science. She has lived in La Crosse for 5 years and loves everything about the community. When she’s not at school or work, you can find her outside hiking the state parks or watching Netflix with her two cats.

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